The Federal Trade Commission is mulling over an all-out offensive against Facebook.
“Federal Trade Commission staff members are recommending that the agency bring an antitrust case against Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, but commissioners haven’t yet reached a decision,” The Wall Street Journal (The Journal) reported October 22. The Journal spoke to unnamed sources who disclosed that the “The five-member FTC met privately via videoconference Thursday to discuss next steps.”
The FTC has spent “more than a year looking into complaints that Facebook has been using its powerful market position to stifle competition,” the Journal clarified, illustrating that this is part of a massive effort by government agencies to wrangle with the unprecedented power of Big Tech.
The details of that effort are still being sorted out: “Staffers have recommended the FTC take action against Facebook, the people said, but details about the commission’s legal theories couldn’t immediately be learned.”
The ramifications of this lawsuit cannot be overestimated for Facebook both financially and structurally, as it has come under fire for buying up competitors “such as photo sharing service Instagram” and others:
“Facebook is still in the process of making its case to the commission, even as the probe has been progressing into its late stages, and recent efforts by FTC staff have included taking testimony from Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, something the commission didn’t do during a prior probe of the company’s privacy practices.
“That matter resulted in a record-breaking $5 billion settlement.”
Facebook’s reckoning by the FTC has been a long time coming: The Journal’s coverage recounted that it “reported in September that the FTC was gearing up to file a possible antitrust lawsuit against Facebook by year-end, with staffers preparing a draft complaint.” The article then included the observation that: “With this week’s discussions, the commission could be headed toward a decision in as soon as the next few weeks, the people familiar with the matter said.”
Part of what may have slowed this lawsuit's progress would be that conservatives who wish to wrangle with Big Tech have reportedly faced opposition both from Democrats and fellow Republicans: “Republican Chairman Joseph Simons during his tenure has at times faced challenges in building coalitions among his Republican and Democratic colleagues.”
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